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Gov. Bill Lee renews Mental Health Trust Fund proposal for K-12 students, families

The proposal allocates $250 million to create strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee renewed a proposal for the Mental Health Trust Fund to help K-12 families facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. 

The proposal allocates $250 million in available funds to create strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach, according to a release from the governor's office.

“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education and success beyond the classroom,” Gov. Lee said. “While my administration proposed these critical mental health supports last year, we now have the available funding and a greater need than ever before to ensure our students have access to mental health resources. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their partnership in this important effort.”

According to the governor's office, services supported by the Mental Health Trust Fund would include: 

  • Direct clinical services in schools
  • Mental health awareness and promotion
  • Suicide prevention and postvention strategies
  • Trauma-informed programs and practices
  • Violence and bullying prevention
  • Project Basic, which includes mental health supports

“We know the earlier we can intervene, the better outcomes are for children and families,” said Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “The services that will be funded by this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from entering mental health crisis situations and ending up in an emergency room.”

Parents, like Elizabeth Allman, feel the proposal came at the perfect time. Her 6-year-old son Logan struggles with his mental health and is a virtual-learning Kindergartener.

"It's not even just my 6-year-old [son], I have nephews that are in middle school about to go into high school and the amount of anxiety they have, just from going to school right now in a time of COVID is unreal," Allman said. 

She admitted COVID uncovered how many students are suffering.

"It's things that our young people have dealt with for years, but it's coming to light more, because we're seeing it at home, they're not able to hide it, or kids aren't chameleons in the school system anymore,” Allman explained.

Allman added she thought the proposal would really be beneficial if counselors and psychologists were made available to school children at no cost to families.

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